By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday December 20, 2012 - 10:03:00 AM

Think back to 1971 and Klute. It succeeded because of Jane Fonda as Bree Daniels, a gritty needy call girl who, through psychoanalysis and a relationship with a detective, develops strength to begin a different life. Fonda was thirty-two years old. Nine years later, in Nine to Five, she snapped out of sweet Judy Bernley’s diffidence with the memorable “You’re a sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot!” Try saying it fast. There were other brilliant performances – Julia, Coming Home, and The Dollmaker readily come to my mind. But recently, Jane Fonda has sold her name to things not worthy of her talent, for example, Georgia Rule (2007) and Monster-in-Law (2005).

Now Jane Fonda is seventy-five years old.

And if we all lived together? (Et si on vivait tous ensemble?) is a 2011 French-German comedy film. It asks the usually-unspoken, senior citizens’ what if question. Instead of risking nursing homes, or housing projects, or so called assisted living, or being alone, or other ghastly unknowns, what if we all lived together, instead? Of course there’s an assumption or two or three in there. Number one is that one of us will always be willing and able to care and cope.  

Two old, married couples (Fonda + Pierre Richard and sixty-eight year old Geraldine Chaplin + Guy Bedos) have responded by choosing to live together in their own Parisian home. Their womanizer, never- married chum (Claude Rich) and an anthropologist doing some action research (Daniel Brühl) move in with them. There’s also a dog. That’s the filmic set-up. The rest is sérieux fun… Jeanne (Fonda), a former philosophy professor, observes, “It’s strange. We plan for everything. We insure our cars, our homes. We even insure our lives. But we don’t give a thought to our final years.”  

Writer-director Stéphane Robelin is no chicken himself. One reviewer called it “a dour Gallic comedy.” And indeed, the usual things associated with age, aging (ageing, British spelling), and ageism have been built in: e.g. forgetting the running bathwater, severe illness courageously hidden, dementia, Viagra, coffin shopping, cancer. The Boston Globe notes that “Aging isn’t for sissies in France, either, especially for men.” With English subtitles, it is released in the U.S. as All Together. Fonda does indeed speak French. And she looks and sounds mahvelous! Al fin!  


The Golden Palm is the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, presented to the director of the best feature film. In 1955, the first Palme d'Or was awarded to Delbert Mann for Marty. As of 2012, Jane Campion remains the only woman to have won the Palme d'Or. 

Many viewers wonder why Michael Haneke's film, Amour, with its dying, aging, happily married, demented elderly characters, won the Palme d'Or. Perhaps they are uncomfortable with its end-of-life subject-- “a grim anatomy of elderly debility and dementia, complete with incontinence, forced feeding and the eventual stench of putrefaction,” as one reviewer puts it as he lauds “Haneke's unsparing quest for the truth about the way we live and die.” 

Octogenarians Georges and Anne are retired music teachers whose daughter lives abroad with her family. When Anne suffers a stroke and is left paralyzed on one side of her body, the couple’s abiding love for each other is put to the test as Georges attempts to care for her at home. 

Amour was released in November and opened nationally on December 19. 

And finally, in descending order. The Stand Up Guys are played by seventy-eight year old Alan Arkin, Al Pacino at seventy-two, and Christopher Walken, sixty-nine. The appeal seems to be that three shallow characters are still alive, having fun raising hell despite being old. Former partners in crime reunited. Aging is literally an R-rated state of mind. And yes, of course, Viagra plays a part.  



Caregivers view elderly consumers as "old" when they can no longer perform everyday activities of “consumption” independently [purchasing, producing] regardless of their actual age. Activities such as shopping, preparing meals, doing housework, going to the doctor, taking medications, and managing money serve as a means of identifying someone as old and as venues for working through conflicts that arise when an older consumer who does not identify as old is treated as an “old person” by family members and service providers. When Michelle Barnhart (Oregon State University) and Lisa Peñaloza (Bordeaux Management School) drew on in-depth interviews with consumers in their late 80s, their family members, and paid caregivers, they found that participants viewed someone as “old” when that person consumed in ways consistent with society’s concept of old people, and not simply when she or he experienced inabilities that come with increased chronological age. The study will be published in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research

Sonoma County has implemented state-mandated lower pensions and benefit formulas for new hires. For public safety workers, maximum formula is 2.7% of salary for every year worked at age 57. For all other workers, 2.5% at age 67. (Current maximum formulas: 3% at 50 for public safety; 3% at 60 for all others). The changes, most of which do not require labor's approval, are expected to help curb rising taxpayer costs. 

Public libraries here and abroad are making The Gift of Reading to senior citizens. The New York Public Library and other libraries are working with older people to help them navigate tablets and computer software. Senior citizens see better with tablets’ adjustable type sizes. Reading becomes easier again. Based on tests conducted with 66 adults age 50+: older people read faster when using an iPad, compared to a newspaper with the same 10-point font size. When the font was increased to 18 points — easy to do on an iPad (as well as on my pc!) — reading speed increased to 137 words per minute. 

Retirees’ volunteer hour$ are worth billion$. Adults age 65+ volunteered 1.7 billion hours last year, in effect donating more than $37 billion, based on a $21.79 per hour value, a standard used by the volunteer sector. Older Americans may not have the highest rate of volunteering—that honor goes to middle-aged working parents—but in terms of time donated, they lead. Baby boomers, currently aged 48 - 66, who volunteered in 2011 did so for a median of 52 hours each, while volunteers aged 65+ donated 92 hours each, on median, according to an annual study by the Corporation for National and Community Service, based on a U.S. Census survey of 100,000 people. Religious and social or community-service organizations were seniors’ top two volunteer organizations in 2011. The top four activities boomers and seniors said they engage in were fundraising (or selling items to raise money); collecting, preparing, distributing or serving food; general labor or transportation; and professional or management assistance. Volunteer rates vary dramatically by state: Utah topped the nation, and New York ranked lowest. With 26% of residents volunteering, California ranked 37.